Here Comes the Nu DCU

Everything old will soon be new (or at least newish) again in the DC Comics Universe (DCU).

It’s been months since DC announced that its fictional universe would be rebooted in September, and now it’s almost upon us. The final days of the old DCU have played out through August. It’s a wrap. The lights have dimmed. When they blaze to life again, the DCU will be a different place.

After the announcement was first made, I was vocal about how unhappy I was. I’ve been reading DC titles since 1978. I survived the Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985 and several subsequent crises. The idea that everything I’d loved for decades was being rebooted was upsetting.

What I’m going to do here is list some of the concerns I have, and then I’ll revisit them (#2 is an obvious exception) throughout September to see if they were warranted or not.

My biggest concerns:

1. How far will the reboot go, and will it be consistent? I’ve heard it referred to as a “soft reboot.” On one hand, it will feature characters at early points in their careers (about five years after the start of the Nu DCU’s superhero age, if I understand correctly) with changes from what we’ve known, while on the other, it sounds like Batman and Green Lantern will largely keep their existing continuities. This is a potential problem that also plagued the aftermath of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

2. Long running titles such as Action Comics, which passed the 900 issue mark earlier this year, and Detective Comics, in the high 800s, are being reset to #1. In my eyes, the larger issue numbers are like a gold medal of longevity and success. Every failed comic book series has had a #1. Only those successful for generations are in the high 800s or low 900s. Though I imagine DC will return to the original numbering in time for those books’ 1000th issues later in the decade or early in the next (that is, if the reboot hasn’t been retconned away by another crisis before then).

3. The redesigned costumes, which made me wonder if I’d fallen into a time vortex and came out the other side in the Image Comics office of the 1990s.

4. Barbara Gordon’s return as Batgirl, meaning the loss of her as Oracle. As controversial as 1988’s Batman: The Killing Joke was for having Barbara shot by the Joker, leaving her a paraplegic, her rebirth as Oracle, fighting crime from a wheelchair, in the early 1990s took her to new heights as a character, and she became an inspirational figure for those of us with disabilities. Losing Oracle hurts.

The why of the reboot is obvious. Comics readership has been declining. This is DC’s attempt to rejuvenate interest in their characters among existing readers and hopefully bring in new readers. Will it work? As a fan of the medium, of course I want to see it grow in popularity. I suspect numbers will be higher at first, but in the long run they will begin to decline again. If the successful comics-based films of the past decade didn’t bring in a significant number of new readers, I have doubts that this approach will do so, either. Only time will tell.

When one runs down the roster of creative talent post-reboot, one realizes that whatever questions there may about the reboot, there is absolutely no question about the quality of the writers and artists involved. Not enough female talent, mind you, but that’s an issue for another post. With the talent involved, I’m willing to give them a fair chance to sell me on the merits of the Nu DCU beginning with Justice League #1 this week.

As September unfolds, I’ll report back on my impressions, and whether my concerns were valid or not.

5 thoughts on “Here Comes the Nu DCU

  1. I wondered the same thing too.
    I to was also pissed about the loss of Oracle.
    Almost every disabled superhero’s power or tech or some sort of powers gives them a replica of their ability. Oracle kicked ass from a chair. THAT is always cool.

  2. I am so angry with the Birds of Prey reboot. Seriously? We have ONE group of women crime fighters. Now we’re going to make them operate on the wrong side of the law? With POISON IVY in the group?!

    And WHO thought that Black Canary’s costume change was a good idea? I’m all behind making her less sexualized but that doesn’t mean making her look like… I don’t know what, but awful. Just awful.

  3. I’m not especially annoyed at Barbara’s no longer being disabled*, but I fail to see any good reason for having her go back to being Batgirl. IMO, she is a much better character as Oracle, and she can do that whether she is disabled or not. (Does more good as Oracle than she could manage as Batgirl, mind.)

    (*) Of course, removing a long-term established disabled character is all kinds of problematic by itself.

  4. I’m glad that someone is investing some time and money to tell me if this is worth it or not. Frankly, after what DC and Marvel have done, I’ve been burned too many times to invest anything more than a cursory glance at their books.

    That’s not to say I want them to fail… I want superhero comics to thrive and succeed, but out-moded business models and a Boys Only Club mentality ringed with a nice dose of racism isn’t helping them achieve the kinds of numbers that they were getting over a decade ago.

  5. Fascinating post. I share your concerns, but like you am giving DC the benefit of the doubt. The first new title, Justice League, didn’t knock me out, but it’s early days.

    @Jenna, I was under the impression that the Birds of Prey are simply seen as vigilantes (which is fair enough) by the Law, not that they’re actual criminals. And is that definitely Ivy? Could be the Thorn.

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